Southland Tales
Other // R // November 16, 2007
Review by Geoffrey Kleinman | posted November 20, 2007
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First off, let me say how much I love Donnie Darko. I first saw Donnie Darko when it premiered at Sundance and I was taken with the way it transported the viewer to an alternate universe, a dark and twisted place where you never knew where you stood. I look back now after watching Southland Tales and lay more credit for that on the performance of Jake Gyllenhaal, because it's hard for me to believe that Richard Kelly had anything to do with it. That's how bad Southland Tales is, it forces you to question if anyone should have ever let Richard Kelly make a film let alone if he had anything to do with Donnie Darko's success.

When I first heard about Southland Tales it was mixed in with reports of its 'tragic' Cannes Film Fest premiere. Audiences booed the film and critics complained about the mammoth running time. The film sat on the shelf for two years, ultimately getting a recut and shorter running time. Unfortunately they didn't cut enough. A paper shredder would have been a better choice for this film. So I went into this film knowing it might have problems, but hoping and wishing that if it did fail it did so with ambition and vision. Boy was I wrong.

Southland Tales fails on almost every level. The script seems like the kind of thing a high school kid would write after auditing a junior college philosophy class for a day. The acting is so poor that you wonder how any of the actors (including Dwayne Johnson 'The Rock', Sarah Michelle Gellar, Justin Timberlake or Seann William Scott) could ever consider acting again. The cast feels more like a geek's wet dream wish list for actors rather than any traces of any real casting director's work. But what I fault Southland Tales for the most is its complete and total lack of vision. For a film supposedly about the end of the world, a totalitarian future and one where 'everyone wants to be a porn star', the vision it presents is so dull and so cobbled together you wonder if anyone ever gave any real thought to the project.

When a film is reviewed so negatively there's often an associated urge, a morbid curiosity to see for oneself if a film like Southland Tales is 'really that bad'. If somehow it's so bad...that it is somehow 'good'. I can assure you it's only a fool who would waste time on this exploration for Southland Tales which is so bad it's just plain bad, not good bad, not interesting bad, not a brilliant disaster, just an utter and complete waste of your time.

I could regale you with examples of just how bad this film is (there's a musical number where Justin Timberlake lip syncs to The Killers) but I'll spare you even that. For the time you've spent reading this review is even more time than this film deserves from you and a film like Southland Tales makes me wonder if studios actually watch all the films they release. Because anyone in their right mind who watched this steaming pile of crap and then decided to subject others to it shouldn't be able to keep that job.


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